15 November 2021

ASEAN Youths Discuss Sustainable Solutions For Post Pandemic Challenges

With the world casting its gaze beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic, youth leaders from ASEAN gathered in Singapore to discuss how to tackle the challenges ahead.

AYF Photo

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, Singapore Edwin Tong (first row, centre), presented each Fellow with their AYF Certificates of Participation at the end of the five-day programme. Many Fellows had donned traditional outfits to celebrate the occasion.

More than 30 ASEAN youth leaders gathered in Singapore from 27 - 31 October 2021 for the ASEAN Youth Fellowship (AYF), to brainstorm ways to take the region forward once the Covid-19 pandemic ends. They comprise the third cohort of the programme which began in 2018.

There were both physical and virtual interactions among themselves as well as discussions with regional thought leaders. Participants also visited several Singapore sites to see how some challenges were being addressed.

The AYF aims to connect next-generation leaders from diverse sectors to form a strong collaborative network of people who seek to effect positive social change within the region. The event was organised jointly by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and the National Youth Council (NYC) Singapore. With their extensive networks, they facilitated dialogues with senior policy-makers, thought leaders, and change makers.

The event’s discussions focused on how the youth leaders could contribute to ASEAN’s sustainable development.

Topics included Innovations in Public Health Management as well as Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) standards. Fellows had a closed-door dialogue on “ASEAN Partnerships to Drive a Sustainable Future”, with Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Fellows also had the opportunity to interact with the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community and Corporate Affairs, His Excellency Tran Duc Binh. He shared his views on the importance of fostering an ASEAN identity, youth empowerment in the grouping’s development agenda, and furthering people-to-people ties among ASEAN youths.

Mr Tran noted that, alongside the disruption to global economies, the pandemic created shared challenges in Southeast Asia. These were tests of the region’s solidarity and opportunities for ASEAN to strengthen its relationships and digital economies.

He added that COVID-19 had thrown the focus on youth empowerment in ASEAN’s development and agenda and emphasised that youths were crucial in ASEAN’s community-building endeavours as the region’s current and future leaders, workforce, and innovators.

Mr Chirag Agarwal, 2021 ASEAN Youth Fellow from Singapore and Co-Founder of mental health start-up Talk Your Heart Out (TYHO), was appreciative of the frank and open dialogues with thought leaders and policy makers about pressing regional issues.

He added: “It was also great to meet Youth Fellows from neighbouring countries and learn more about their hopes and aspirations. I look forward to keeping in touch and exploring potential collaborations with them.”

Fellows went on immersive and interactive Learning Journeys to gain insights and expand their viewpoints on social innovation, energy transformation, as well as food and agriculture technology in Singapore.

These included visits to the Sustainable Living Lab, a sustainability consultant, the Sembcorp Tengeh Floating Solar Farm, EWR2 – an automated e-waste recycling plant – and Insectta, Singapore's first urban insect farm.

Ms Cynthia Handriani Wijaya, 2021 ASEAN Youth Fellow from Indonesia and Head of Business Development and Investor Relations, Daya Selaras Group, said: “I appreciate this opportunity to connect with other youths of different backgrounds in the region.

“The event provided me with fresh perspectives on different facets of sustainability – the challenges, opportunities, hopes and goals. It is impossible to bring about meaningful change alone. People-public-private partnerships within and across ASEAN countries are essential for sustainable development in the region.”